During the time following the American Revolution, it was necessary for the original Congress to meet under one roof. But why should a twenty-first-century legislature be constrained by eighteenth-century technology? Why should congressional members have to rush away from their constituencies back to Washington just to cast votes, especially in committee hearings? These current congressmen and women should be much more in close proximity with those who elected them, not at high-priced cocktail parties in Washington at the behest of rich special interest promoters.
If millions of Americans can telecommute, why can’t members of congress attend committee meetings by video conference? If I can regularly Skype, Zoom, or Facetime with my grandkids, why can’t my congressman add a big screen to his or her office, tune in meetings, the go back to handling problems of constituents right out of the home district?
As it is now, we might catch a glimpse of our members of congress when they are interviewed on television. How refreshing it would be to see your congressman back home in his or her district attending various school events” Or even run into him or her at your local coffee shop. Back in their districts most of the time, these congressmen will be surrounded by skeptical constituents, rather than fawning supplicants. And they’ll continue to have to justify any political decision they make that’s contrary to the will of the voters.
With no nonstop flights from Louisiana to Washington, D.C., it’s a half a day journey or more form a congressional district in the Bayou State to the halls of congress. So our representatives spend an enormous amount of time just traveling back and forth. And often, the trip to the nation’s capital amounts to routine business that could easily be handled over the internet.
There are a number of other proposals out there to make congress more responsive to those who elected them. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, during his short run for president, suggested a part-time congress. Term limits is an idea that continues to have high favorable support. Others are saying that congressional districts have grown too large, and more members of congress should be added. All these ideas have merit.
But there’s nothing more important than re-establishing a closer relationship between the congressman and the people he or she represents. In the old days, it was called “retail politics.” Handshake and face-to-face interaction. Let a voter blow off steam or bring up what could be a good idea. Cutting down on all the travel, and allowing members of Congress to vote remotely in committee meetings seems to be a prudent move in this day and age.
There certainly is no patent for good “common sense” emanating from Washington these days. So come back home, Congressman, and listen and learn from those who elected you. It will be better for you and better for those you represent.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears in numerous newspapers throughout the state and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.